Arnon Degani

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: University of California- Los Angeles
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Middle East/Israel Studies
  • Dissertation Title: "Our Arabs": The Integration of the Palestinian-Arabs into Israeli Society, 1948-1967
  • I study the daily life, political status and worldviews of Israel's Palestinian-Arab citizens between 1948 and 1967. During this time period, the state endowed this community with citizenship while subjecting it to marital law and a wide array of other discriminatory policies. At the center of my work is a careful reconstruction of the interactions between state organs and Palestinian-Arabs. My dissertation focuses on four central aspects of Palestinian-Arab life in Israel: movement restrictions; wage labor; healthcare; and political outlook. Scholarship on this topic tends to read into the past the current trend of ever increasing hostility between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. In contrast, my research suggests that until 1967, Israeli offcials of different ranks largely targeted the Palestinian-Arabs for absorption into the Israeli body politic through a protracted project of political, economic, and, to a certain extent, cultural integration. The Palestinian-Arab for their part were generally willing to positively engage with state organs on the basis of their citizenship and in order to be treated a equals.
    My research joins that of other scholars aiming to re-invigorate the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of its protagonists. Much of contemporary historiography, from all sides of the debate, tends to project current political realities between Jewish Israelis and the Palestinians onto the early Israeli past. Contrary to this tendency, my scholarship shows that the tears between 1948 and 1967 witnessed a progressively integrationist dynamic between the state of Israel and a small Palestinian-Arab constituency within its borders. This historical pattern, it should be noted, is not singular. Many other histories of settler colonialism feature reconciliation and integration between settlers and indigenous populations. Elsewhere, in both academic and more popular venues, I have argued extensively for the merits of studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using a settler-colonial paradigm. This approach, as tested in my research, promises to produce a rigorous historical narrative, which does not sit comfortably with either Zionist or Palestinian national perspectives that dominate current scholarship.